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PROVO — Provo High's Friday night homecoming game is coming home.
The Bulldogs planned to host Wasatch in a key Region 8 contest at Spanish Fork High School, moving the game away from the orange-level COVID-19 restrictions in the Provo-Orem area in order to be able to play in front of fans, according to a letter addressed to Provo High parents and students Wednesday. After meeting with officials with both schools, Provo athletic director Mike Hunter told KSL.com that the plan to move the game further south had been approved, too.
But a few hours later, representatives from Nebo School District put a stop to it, asking the schools to change course. There would be no football Friday at Spanish Fork.
"After discussing this matter together, the Nebo district administration has asked the Provo district administration and Provo High School to find a different venue for the Provo High vs. Wasatch High football game this coming Friday," Nebo spokesperson Lana Hiskey told KSL.com. "We appreciate the cooperative relationship we have in working together to support students, their families, and the communities in which we live."
Indeed, Hunter confirmed to KSL.com late Wednesday night that Provo will host Friday's game with Wasatch in compliance with the county's new mandate. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. MT and will be streamed on live.ksl.com.
After a day of twists, turns and updates, the school is back to playing at home in front of no fans.
Provo School District is in Phase 1 of its coronavirus response, though in-person classes have resumed at most schools. The district of 13,727 students reported 23 positive cases of COVID-19 through Tuesday, with 191 quarantines or self-isolations related to potential outbreaks. Nineteen cases are connected to secondary schools in the district, with Provo and Timpview high schools having between 25-99 students currently under quarantine.
But like most districts around the state, Nebo School District has also seen a rise in case numbers since returning to the classroom. The district reported 46 cases among students and staff in the 38,500-person district in its latest report, which was finalized Wednesday. The report indicated the active case count represented around 0.12% of the district's population, and was a rise in seven cases from its report two weeks prior.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and the coronavirus task force downgraded Provo and Orem to the orange or "moderate risk" level of restrictions Tuesday after a surge in new cases produced an epicenter in Utah County, and particularly the Provo-Orem communities centered around Brigham Young and Utah Valley universities.
Those restrictions, which went into effect Wednesday, will allow for team sports to be played but without spectators. BYU football has already announced its next two games against Troy and Louisiana Tech, both scheduled to be played at LaVell Edwards Stadium, will be played without fans.
The same guidelines apply to each high school in Provo and Orem. Provo High was the only public school affected that was scheduled to host a game Friday (Timpview, Timpanogos and Mountain View are each on the road, and Orem is on a bye week), meaning it would have been the only high school presumably affected by the fan ban.
Which led to Wednesday's announcement of the plan to move the game.
"We are happy to announce that the venue for Friday's football game against Wasatch High School has been changed to Spanish Fork High School, where the same restrictions do not apply," read a letter signed by Provo principal Boyd McAffee that was sent to parents and students, and obtained by KSL earlier on Wednesday. "We will announce homecoming royalty at halftime.
"We all recognize that hosting a homecoming game at another venue is a bit unorthodox, but it is the best option to allow spectators at the game."
The letter adds that mandatory face coverings would have been required and enforced throughout the game, and social distancing will also be monitored. Utah County is currently under a public health order requiring masks in public spaces where at least 6 feet of distancing is not possible, after two county commissioners and the public health director issued the order late Tuesday night.
"If you do not wear a mask, do not attend the game," McAffee’s letter continued. "We all need to do our part to keep our community healthy, to keep our school open, and to give our students a chance to finish their seasons."
Earlier Friday in Utah, Layton High School placed its football team on a two-week quarantine and postponed games against Clearfield and Fremont, as first reported by the Standard-Examiner. Clearfield will play Farmington on Friday, Falcons coach Andre Dyson told the newspaper, after the Phoenix had a game with Viewmont canceled due to COVID-19 concerns earlier in the week.